The Russian FSB State Security agency claims that it has arrested a United States citizen named Paul Whelan who was "caught spying" in Moscow.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which reportedly was informed by Russia's foreign ministry of the incident, didn't respond to an emailed request for comment on the arrest.
"Russia's obligations under the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access".
"Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to provide at this time", the department said.
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The Whelan Dec. 28 arrest occurred eight days after Vladmir Putin commented on the USA arrest of Butina, who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as a foreign agent. She admitted to being involved in an organized effort, backed by Russian officials, to try to lobby influential Americans in the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party.
The arrest comes during an extended period of tension in relations between Moscow and Washington, particularly over the issues of election hacking and influence peddling.
Russian officials denied Butina is one of their agents. "His innocence is undoubted and we trust that his rights will be respected", Whelan's brother, David Whelan, said in a statement released Tuesday to CNN. Butina pled guilty last week to a conspiracy charge, but Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the charges as a "lie", saying, "I don't understand what they jailed her for".
Whelan's family said he had been to Russian Federation "numerous times", as far back as 2007, and was now working on a corporate security team for Borg Warner, which is listed online as a Michigan-based maker of automative industry components.